A call for war time mobilization

Apr 12, 2020 By Eric Engle Letter to the Editor Parkersburg News and Sentinel

In a column dated March 30, Mike Myer writes about the need for greater preparedness when addressing ever-evolving pathogens. I agree with Mike that we must be more prepared for microbial threats like the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Where Mike and I disagree is regarding his comments on climate change. Mike writes, “And how much have we spent — both through government and out of our own pocketbooks because of federal mandates — on climate change?” Mike continues, “Still, climate change isn’t going to kill 50 million of us in a year.” The answer to Mike’s question is “not nearly enough” and my response to Mike’s assertion is “think again!”

The United States, especially under the Trump administration, has not done nearly enough to address anthropogenic (human-caused) global climate change. Trump began by responding to this coronavirus the way he has consistently responded to the climate crisis, with allegations of it all being a partisan, ideologically motivated hoax. To the extent Trump and his administration have taken either threat seriously, it is only to say, “we’ve got it all under control” or “the problem is not nearly as bad as it seems.” We quickly found out how wrong Trump and his administration were on COVID-19, but climate change poses a far more complex, albeit equally urgent, threat.

Intolerable heatwaves, massive wildfires, expansive droughts in some areas – with massive precipitation and flooding events in others (both recurring more frequently and severely) — stronger hurricanes caused by warmer ocean surface temperatures, land and see ice melt, rising seas, ocean acidification and deoxygenation, and, yes, a substantially greater threat from vector-borne diseases like COVID-19 in a warmer and wetter world are just some of the effects of global climate change. The results are and will be enormous economic turmoil that makes this COVID-19 pandemic seem like child’s play. Mass migration issues, an increase in global conflicts as crops fail and global food and potable water supplies diminish (salt water will infiltrate fresh water supplies and some fresh water supplies will simply dry up), and islands and coastlines disappearing beneath the waves are and will be just some of the consequences of our inaction.

What we need to learn from this pandemic is not limited to better addressing threatening and ever-changing microorganisms (though this is critical, as is dealing with antibiotic resistance). What we need is a Green New Deal and we need it now! We need wartime mobilization. As I write this the CDC reports 140,904 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and 2,405 confirmed deaths. West Virginia currently has 124 confirmed cases and 1 confirmed death. By the time this is printed no doubt these numbers will be much higher. Some of these lives could have been saved and some of those made ill spared with proper preparation and mobilization. Will ideological opposition and science rejection result in the same continued mishandling of the global climate crisis? At Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, we’re fighting to keep that from happening. Join us today.